Magazine reading is a big thing in France, much more than here, and it shows in the quality of magazines that are available, which is far superior to much of the stuff found on our shelves here. Bayard Presse is one of the three major children’s magazine publishers in France (along with Milan Presse and Fleurus Presse) and three of their magazines (which are actually an amalgamation of their other titles) have made it across the channel and English versions are available on subscription only. The fact that thye are subscription only is great because all children (and adults) love to get mail, and this makes it all the more special.
Please note the age suitability is only a suggestion.
Story Box is primarily aimed at pre-schoolers and children in infant school and mixes stories, early learning and fun games. Each issue includes a full length illustrated story, non-fiction features on animals and science, short stories in comic format and activities and games. The magazine is very much set-up to allow reading aloud and as a resource to share between adult and child, encouraging inquisitive little minds with WhizKid and encouraging storytelling (and therefore language development) with wordless comic Polo for example. Out of the three magazines this is perhaps the one that showcases the French magazine style the best. Bayard have always used established illustrators to illustrate their feature stories, and this really shows in the quality of the artwork. One cannot deny how superior this is to high street magazines for pre-schoolers.
Story Box is also home to famous SamSam which was a comic in a French children’s magazine (Pomme d’Api) long before he was the hero of a TV cartoon.
With a much longer main story which introduces chapters, Adventure Box encourages independent reading and also includes some fun facts (Nature box being a particular favourite of my daughter’s) and some fun activities. With a much smaller format to regular magazines (much more similar to a paperback book), Adventure Box is nonetheless packed with stuff. Though the story is primarily aimed at independent reading, it is still quite heavily illustrated and it can still be shared as a read-aloud.
I might have slight a favouritism towards this one but I have my reasons. Firstly it includes Ariol, a comic illustrated by one of my favourite French illustrators, Marc Boutavant. Secondly, and that is shamelessly nostalgic of me, it includes another comic about a brother and sister duo, Tom and Lilly, which I read as a child in Bayard’s J’aime Lire where they were called (and still are as the magazine is still running) Tomtom et Nana. Adventure Box is perfect for children who like to read, but want more than just stories.
Described as “a journey through nature, science and discovery”, Discovery Box, unlike the others, focusses on information over story. Though there are a couple of comics and some narrative non-fiction, the focus here has most definitely shifted but stills covers an eclectic range of subjects. This magazine is much more text- heavy than the other two, but a good balance between illustration and photographs and differing designs for each section make the magazine quite accessible even for young children. However the magazine looks and feels distinctively more grown-up and will definitely appeal to the high primary audience. It is a great magazine to feed little readers’ thirst for knowledge and information and an ad-free alternative to magazines such National Geographic Kids.
Bayard’s Box Magazines are glossy and beautfully presented. They do not have any adverts in them. They are gender neutral and therefore do not incite gender-stereotyping and can be enjoyed by all at home. They is no dire licensed-character stuff and they do not come with annoying plastic toys or sweets (I just do not understand why magazines in this country come with sweets!). If all the stuff above was not enough to convince you, then surely those last points will. It is not a particularly cheap magazine, but it is well worth the investment.
Check out the website here for subscription rates.
Source: home copies of Adventure Box and samples copies of Story box and Discovery Box sent by Bayard Magazines.